Six finalists to compete for $10,000 at Startup Day 2018, Traction Award nominees announced

The Innov865 Alliance has selected six East Tennessee startups as pitch competition finalists and three Traction Award nominees for Startup Day 2018. The winners of the pitch competition and Traction Award will be announced on Sept. 25 during the signature event of Innov865 Week, an annual celebration of Knoxville’s thriving entrepreneurial community held this year Sept. 23-28, 2018.

The six startups were selected from a large pool of applicants for the chance to pitch their businesses before a panel of judges at Startup Day’s pitch competition. The finalists will compete in two prize categories, judges’ choice and crowd favorite, for the chance to win a total of $10,000 in cash prizes to invest in their startup. The crowd favorite prize is sponsored by SunTrust Bank.

The Traction Award, sponsored by UT Federal Credit Union, is presented annually to the  Startup Day alum who has made the most progress – or gained the most “traction” – since pitching their company at Startup Day in years past.

The 2017 Innov865 Traction Award winner was RDI Technologies, which offers video camera-based technology to find faults in machinery, infrastructure and human performance not visible to the human eye. Its clients include Fortune100 companies such as Honda, Nissan, Dow Chemical and Shell Oil.

Startup Day 2018 is Sept. 25 from 2:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. at The Mill & Mine in downtown Knoxville. Doors will open at 1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public, and registration is now open online. In addition to the pitch competition and Traction Award announcement, Venture For America’s Amy Nelson will give the keynote address on her experience supporting startups and entrepreneurs.

The Innov865 Alliance has selected the following six finalists to compete in the pitch competition:

David Nelson, BrewFund, Inc.

BrewFund, Inc. creates a new revenue stream for craft beer taprooms through an innovative engagement platform that enables digital gifting, manages loyalty clubs, and provides sales and marketing data.

Alex Adams, GeoAir

GeoAir is a proactive agricultural analysis company that seeks to make farmers more efficient and profitable, utilizing a custom-developed drone to pinpoint and identify mold in fields. GeoAir allows farmers the opportunity to spot treat and manage the mold before damage occurs to the crop.

Shane McMahon, Lux Semiconductors

Lux Semiconductors is an advanced-tech startup developing high-quality and low-cost semiconductor substrates for the rapidly evolving electronics industry. Lux aims to deliver a new class of flexible semiconductor substrates to serve as the next generation platform and replace the thick, fragile, expensive class currently in use.

Megan O’Connor, Nth Cycle

Nth Cycle has developed an electrochemical recycling device to recover rare earth and specialty elements from end-of-life electronics waste streams for reuse in advanced manufacturing.

Bailey Foster, Real Good Kitchen

Real Good Kitchen is a community kitchen and culinary incubator planned to open in Knoxville in 2019. It provides high quality, shared commercial kitchen and storage space, as well as industry-specific technical assistance and business development resources, to established and emerging food entrepreneurs.

Tommy Nguyen, StoragePug

StoragePug is a modern marketing company for self storage. Powered by scalable cloud and serverless computing, StoragePug creates intelligent marketing websites that connect customers to self storage through online rentals, bill pay, and lease eSign.

The Innov865 Alliance has selected the following nominees for the 2018 Traction Award:

Courtney Jones, MomSource Network

Courtney  Jones  is  the  CEO  of  MomSource  Network,  an  organization  dedicated  to  creating  diverse  and  inclusive  workplaces  through  targeted  diversity  recruiting  efforts  enterprise  Returnship  and  Trailing  Spouse  programs.  A  passionate  advocate  for  gender  diversity  and  a  recognized  thought  leader  on  topics  related  to  women  in  business,  D&I  and  work-life  blend;  she’s  been  featured  in  Bloomberg,  CNN,  and  Working  Mother  and  has  worked  alongside  hundreds  of  companies  to  create  meaningful  opportunities  for  women.

Mac Bartine, Smart RIA

Mac  Bartine  is  the  CEO  of  Smart  RIA,  a  software  platform  that  simplifies  compliance  for  the  Registered  Investment  Advisor  (RIA)  industry,  which  is  regulated  by  the  Securities  and  Exchange  Commission.  Under  Mac’s  leadership,  Smart  RIA  has  grown  more  than  13 percent  month  over  month  since  January  of  2017,  which  was  its  second  full  year  of  revenue,  and  is  on  track  to  expand  internationally  and  exceed  $1 million  in  leading  annual  sales  in  2019.

Graham Taylor, T&T Scientific

Graham Taylor is president and CTO of T&T Scientific, a company that produces low-cost, single use liposome extrusion devices that simplify the process of preparing liposomes for research laboratories, manufacturing facilities, and clinical settings. Compared to other commercially available extrusion platforms, T&T Scientific’s NanoSizerTM technology is ready to use out of the package and does not require any assembly or cleaning, enabling a more efficient process and lowering the risk of contamination.

Rise & Grind highlights the importance, financial advantages of leadership diversity in the workforce

Coffee, donuts, and an engaging conversation held at UTRF’s Business Incubator showcased the need for increased flexibility and diversity in the workforce.

On Wednesday’s Rise & Grind event the audience became acquainted with Kim Seals, General Partner of MomSource Network investor The JumpFund and Courtney Jones Startup Day alum & Founder of the MomSource Network.

MomSource Network is a startup focused on seeing women achieve their ideal work/life blend. The company has two separate parts to its business. Part one is a tech platform focused on development and training for women as they navigate their journey in and out of the workforce. MomSource Network also provides a gateway of progressive employers who are willing to use their skill set in a flexible full-time, permanent, or part-time remote capacity.

The other half of the company is providing consulting services to those progressive employers who are mindful about attracting and retaining great female talent.

The JumpFund’s mission is to invest women’s capital in female-led southeastern companies with growth potential in order to generate a strong financial return and elevate the role of women in business.

The JumpFund invested in MomSource Network about two years ago, and Kim Seals along with her sister Pam made a sidecar investment as well.

“There’s a lot of data that supports that there is a need for women to invest in women, and it can produce a good ROI,” said Seals.

During the Rise & Grind event Seals recited striking statistics that highlight the positive financial outcomes from employing a woman within a company’s leadership.

According to a recent MacKenzie survey, companies with at least one female founder are performing 63% better than investments with all male-led companies.

“We want to see diversity in that leadership, and one of the key reasons is that most purchasing decisions made in the household are made by females,” said Seals.

Seals brought up that 80% of all purchasing decisions in the household are made by women. If a company doesn’t have a female in its leadership team helping make product and strategy decisions, that business is missing a key voice of their customer.

“We’re seeing companies with women in the top leadership positions producing 47% higher returns on equity and 55% higher returns on EBIT,” said Seals.

On top of that, Courtney Jones echoed the importance of flexible employment.

“85% of people say they would be more loyal to their current employer if they were offered increased flexibility,” said Jones.

Jones mentioned that in society, women are often pushed into choosing whether to become a full-time working mother or a full-time stay at home mom.

“At the end of the day, it’s really about organizations being progressive enough to say, ‘We’re willing to offer some agile workplace arrangements if we can still get the results that we need for our business,'” said Jones.

Seals reinforced that need for flexibility after describing her background in human resources with Mercer and it’s importance at the time.

“There was a real financial ROI for our companies that we were working with at Mercer about how to keep women in the workforce,” said Seals.

Seals said Mercer quickly discovered that they needed to keep women engaged, figure out how to create that work/life blend for them because it was something their clients were asking for. Ultimately, that’s what led to her interest in MomSource Network.

Rise & Grind was hosted by UTRF, Three Roots Capital, and Best Behavior Creative Club

Rise and Grind, Hosted by Three Roots Capital

Free coffee and donuts! Yum!

If that’s not enough reason to attend, there will be an interview and Q/A session with Courtney Jones, founder of MomSource Network, and Kim Seals, a board member of MomSource Network and general partner of MomSource Network investor The JumpFund. They will be discussing entrepreneurship, raising capital, investor/operator relationships, and… doing those things as women.

RSVP for Rise & Grind Here.

Founded in August 2013, MomSource Network is an online community that provides continuing education, virtual networking and a gateway to progressive employers offering flexible work options. The JumpFund provides necessary capital for women entrepreneurs to ignite growth ventures throughout the Southeast.

Sponsors for Rise & Grind include: